Fentanyl Lollipop: What is it?

Gone are the days when parents could trust that their children were safe against the deadly effects of Fentanyl. Today, Fentanyl overdose deaths and opioid overdose deaths are at an all-time high, with overdose deaths up by 15% as of 2022. As a parent, it’s crucial to be aware of all the dangers your child may face, and that includes the dangers posed by Fentanyl lollipops.

What Is a Fentanyl Lollipop?

A Fentanyl lollipop is a type of topical medication that contains the potent opioid drug Fentanyl. It is also called OTFC, which stands for oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate. It is then imbued into lollipops, making it easy to consume, and also makes it difficult as parents to discern as an illicit substance.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat severe pain and activates opioid receptors, which interpret signals of pain. Fentanyl can help treat pain such as that experienced by:

  • Cancer patients

  • Severely injured patients

  • Patients who have undergone major surgery

  • Patients with terminal illnesses

As the name suggests, Fentanyl lollipops contain the active ingredient fentanyl citrate. Fentanyl lollipops are applied directly to the mucous membranes in the mouth, where it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the oral mucosa. The rest of the fentanyl is then swallowed and processed through the stomach and intestines. The Fentanyl then acts on the central nervous system, which can lead to side effects such as:

  • Euphoria

  • Relaxation

  • Pain relief

  • Fatigue

  • Sedation

  • Somnolence

  • Nausea

  • Itching

Origins Of the Fentanyl Lollipop

In 1990, a study published in the American Journal of Nursing described the first use of Fentanyl Citrate by a 62-year-old man who had advanced lung cancer. This man wanted to enjoy life and continue to do regular activities like golfing despite his cancer. The researchers administered Fentanyl Citrate in a lozenge form (i.e., a Fentanyl lollipop) since the man was already tolerant to opioids.

Tolerant means that the person no longer responds to the drug after repeated use. In other words, they need more and more of the drug to get the same effect. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to continue to prescribe opioid medications through traditional methods, like pills, when a person is tolerant. This is because they would need to take too many pills or other opioid medications to get the same pain-relieving effect and the risk of overdose would be high.

So, the researchers decided to give him fentanyl citrate through a lozenge inserted in the buccal pouch between the gums and cheek. They found that the man was able to take his medication without any serious adverse effects and experienced significant pain relief. The analgesic effects were stronger and set in fast, and the man experienced significant pain relief even six hours after administration without significant changes in his vital signs. Thus, the Fentanyl lollipop, now sold under the name Actiq, was born. It is now widely used to help to treat breakthrough cancer pain, just like it did for the 62-year-old man in the original study.

What Makes Fentanyl Lollipops So Dangerous?

This method of administration allows for a more rapid onset of action than traditional methods, such as pills or injections. In fact, research shows that fentanyl citrate in these lollipops is associated with a higher incidence of adverse side effects like:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Respiratory distress

  • Confusion

  • Drowsiness

In addition, Fentanyl itself also causes significant issues, especially when used in high doses. When used as intended, Fentanyl is a safe and effective medication. However, when it’s misused or abused, it can have dangerous and even deadly consequences.

For example, because Fentanyl is so potent, it has a high risk for abuse and addiction. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified Fentanyl as a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and addiction.

In addition, because Fentanyl is so potent, it also has a high risk for overdose. Fentanyl lollipops are no exception, with the Actiq warning label stating that the medication can lead to fatal respiratory depression.

What Does it Look Like?

Many parents might think a Fentanyl lollipop appears to be a regular lollipop. However, it’s important to know that these lollipops are only available with a prescription and they come in a child-resistant blister package.

Each lozenge is individually wrapped and is foil sealed. The body of the lozenge is white with a blue stripe and the word “ACTIQ” is printed on it. The dosage will also be printed on the lozenge, with the most common being 200 mg.

It’s important to keep in mind that these lollipops are only for cancer patients or those with severe chronic pain who are already taking opioids for pain and are tolerant of them. They should never be given to children or anyone else who has not been prescribed them by a doctor.

The bottom of the lozenge has a blue plastic stick that is used to hold the lozenge in place while it dissolves. Once the lozenge is in place, it should not be removed for any reason.

If you find a Fentanyl lollipop that does not have a child-resistant blister package or that has been removed from the packaging, do not use it or touch it. These lollipops can be dangerous if they are not used as directed.

How Would My Teen Access Them?

Unfortunately, like other fentanyl products, fentanyl lollipops are also sold illegally on the street. In fact, a recent news story out of South Carolina reports that five people overdosed due to fentanyl lollipops. Even though a doctor did not prescribe fentanyl to all of them, they were still able to get their hands on these Fentanyl lollipops.

Your child might be able to find a Fentanyl lollipop by:

  • Searching online

  • Asking friends or acquaintances

  • Going to a dealer or drug dealer

  • Stealing your fentanyl medication

As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs of fentanyl abuse so you can spot it if it’s happening with your teen. Some common signs of Actiq addiction and substance use disorder include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior

  • Sudden weight loss

  • Lying or being secretive

  • Skipping school or work

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy

  • Withdrawal from friends and family

  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug

  • Problems with the law

  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits

  • Acting differently when under the influence of drugs or alcohol

  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol

If you suspect your teen is abusing Fentanyl, it’s important to get help right away. There are many resources available to help you and your family through this difficult time.

How To Help Someone With A Fentanyl Lollipop Addiction

If you think someone you know is addicted to a Fentanyl lollipop, it’s important to get them help as soon as possible. Here are some resources that can help.

Primary Care Provider

If you’re not sure where to start, your primary care provider is a good place. They can help you figure out if your loved one has an addiction and, if so, what kind of treatment they need. If your child’s doctor was not the one who prescribed the Fentanyl, they may still be able to help you find resources in your community and give a referral to an addiction treatment center.

Inpatient Medical Detox

Unfortunately, stopping the use of fentanyl can be very difficult and dangerous. If your loved one is addicted to fentanyl, they will likely need professional help to detox from the drug. Inpatient medical detox is the safest way to detox from fentanyl as it provides 24-hour care and supervision. During opioid withdrawal, severe side effects can occur including:

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Muscle aches

  • Fever

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Agitation

  • Irritability

Inpatient detoxification programs can help manage these withdrawal symptoms and make the process of quitting fentanyl as safe and comfortable as possible.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment Center

After detox, your loved one will need to find a more long-term solution for their addiction. Inpatient treatment centers provide 24-hour care and support while helping people recover from addiction. Treatment typically lasts 28 days, but some programs offer longer or shorter stays depending on the needs of the individual. During treatment, your loved one will participate in individual and group therapy sessions as well as activities and workshops designed to help them build a foundation for recovery.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment Center

If your loved one is not ready or able to commit to an inpatient treatment program, outpatient treatment may be a better option. Outpatient programs allow people to live at home while attending treatment during the day. These programs typically meet 3-5 days per week for a few hours at a time. Outpatient fentanyl treatment can be a good option for people who have a strong support system at home and who are not struggling with a severe addiction.

Sober Living Home

After completing an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, your loved one may benefit from a sober living home. Sober living homes provide a safe and structured environment for people in early recovery. Residents typically have to follow certain rules, such as no drinking or drug use and may be required to participate in activities such as 12-step meetings or therapy. Sober living homes can help people transition back to life outside of treatment and reduce their risk of relapse. Not only this, but sober living programs provide a community that helps individuals stay accountable for their recovery.

Help Your Teen Recover from Fentanyl Addiction Today

If your child has opioid use disorder or fentanyl use disorder, now is the perfect time to get them help. With treatment, your teen can learn to cope with their fentanyl addiction and live a healthy, drug-free life. Sober living programs work intricately with all branches of recovery, and can often help direct you in your endeavors.

Last Updated on May 24, 2023


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